Next year promises to be the Year of the Tomato here at Happy Acres as I trial quite a few tomato varieties that are new to me. Many of those cultivars have been bred and released by Baia Nicchia Farm in Sunol, California. Currently seven of their Artisan Seeds varieties of open pollinated tomatoes are available from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, including the Tiger series and Blush which are elongated cherry tomatoes, and the round cherry tomatoes in the Bumble Bee series. Thanks to our friend Jan, my wife and I tasted most all of them at a farmer’s market last year, and after that tasting I wanted to grow them all! I did grow Green Tiger and Blush this year in my garden, and both of them quickly became favorites.
If you are a fan of green-when-ripe tomatoes, you might consider giving Green Tiger a try. It is the best producing GWR tomato I have ever grown, and tasty too. Green Tiger makes a striking display with other tomatoes, and is paired up with Black Cherry in the above photo. It was a star of many salads and salsas here in the last two years. Blush has a sweet, fruity, almost tropical taste, and I look forward to growing it again next year. I also plan on growing Sunrise Bumble Bee and Purple Bumble Bee in 2016.
In addition to the varieties sold by Johnny’s, the folks at Baia Nicchia Farm also sell true-breeding tomatoes and other selected veggies through their Artisan Seeds website. These include the Aji Amarillo and Mareko Fana peppers that Michelle reviewed recently, and the Highland Kale (Brassica carinata) that I am growing now in the greenhouse and cold frame beds. Next year I will be growing most of the tomatoes offered by Artisan Seeds at their online store, and I want to highlight them since they are new and may not be familiar to all of my readers.
I’ll start with Maglia Rosa, named for the mottled pink jersey worn by the lead racer in the Tour of Italy. Maglia Rosa is a long pink cherry tomato I am excited to be trying next year. The short, semi-determinate vines are good for pots and containers, and I’m planning on giving a couple of containers an early start in my greenhouse. The tomatoes are ready about 55 days after transplanting, so that will hopefully give us an early taste of tomatoes. You can read more about Maglia Rosa here on the Baia Nicchia Farm blog. I also plan on growing one or two in the main garden. The vines can be left to sprawl, but I tend to lose a lot of tomatoes to rot that way, so I will probably support them with a short cage.
Spike is a small-fruited tomato that has been quite popular in the SF Bay Area for almost ten years now. Seedlings have been available to gardeners there, and I know Michelle (From Seed To Table) grew them this year. Spike is a bit larger than a typical saladette tomato, and is rust colored with green-to-golden stripes. The insides are purple and green, and the flavor is described as a “mix of sweet and tangy.” It’s also a semi-determinate type, with finely dissected foliage. I am going to give this one a spot in the main garden, and I may try it in the greenhouse if I can find room.
Orange Caprese is an orange plum shaped tomato with indeterminate vines. It can be used fresh, or cooked up to make a light orange sauce for pasta and other dishes. I bet it would be good for dehydrating and slow roasting, and I can see those orange slices going well on a pizza or in a Caprese Salad. The tomatoes start ripening about 75 days after transplant. While the vines are vigorous, they are susceptible to Early Blight and Septoria Leafspot. Thankfully I have not had any blight issues here, but Septoria can sometime be a problem, so we will see how this one does for me next year.
Marzano Fire is a new striped paste tomato developed from the classic San Marzano paste tomatoes grown near Naples, Italy. It’s a semi-determinate variety that’s ready about 75 days after transplant. The fruits of Marzano Fire have dry, meaty flesh that are good for canning or cooking down into sauces. We use a lot of paste type tomatoes here, and it will be interesting to see how Marzano Fire likes our hot, humid summers.
Baia Nicchia Farm specializes in striped tomatoes, and Orange Jazz is a new large orange beefsteak with yellow stripes. They have been working to develop beefsteak tomatoes for 10 years now, and they consider Orange Jazz to be their best to date. The flavor is described as “sweet, complex, and with hints of peach.” The indeterminate vines are resistant to many fungal diseases, but susceptible to Early Blight and Septoria Leafspot. Fred Hempel from Artisan Seeds recently wrote a piece on Orange Jazz for the Mother Earth News blog, and you can read it here.
Jazz is a pink beefsteak with yellow stripes and a rich, sweet taste. It’s another indeterminate type with a disease package similar to Orange Jazz. It’s a struggle to grow most o/p beefsteak tomatoes here, and I am curious to see how Jazz and Orange Jazz will do for me. I’m hoping we will have more ‘normal’ weather in 2016, and not the excessive rainfall we saw this summer which gave me one of my worst tomato crops I can remember.
And lastly, for all the adventurous gardeners out there, Artisan Seeds is offering a Collaborating Membership that allows members to actually participate in the development and testing of exciting new and unreleased tomato varieties. Members get to choose seeds of five new tomato varieties each year, including both OP and F1 hybrid varieties, for the next ten years. You can read more about this offer here. After I read about it, I decided to use my allowance and buy a membership myself.
I won’t be blogging about the test varieties, at least not until they are released to the general public. But it will be so much fun to be a part of the process, and think of all the interesting new tomatoes I will get to eat in the next ten years! One of the test varieties I’m growing next year is called Taste, and you can learn a bit more about it and the efforts that went into developing it in this video.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this review of the Artisan Seeds tomatoes. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres!
All photos except the first two are from Artisan Seeds, and are used by permission of Fred Hempel.